The pitter patter of rain woke this morning from my deep slumber, the whispers of wind dancing with the leaves reminding me that this is my last day. It’s hard to believe that in two days time I won’t have lush green forests surrounding me, nor the nutella smeared faces of countless little cousins. While I am happy to be seeing my family again soon, and of course my puppy Stella (whom I have been informed has been making my Mom’s life a living hell), I feel so at peace and at home in Germany it scares me a little bit to be leaving it for all the chaos that will inevitably ensue at home. Not to say there’s isn’t any chaos here of course. The past few days have been above all else beautiful. Here’s a little look at what I’ve been up to.
I had to say my first goodbyes on Sunday to my uncle and future aunt as they drove out to our village to have tea and cake in the garden. We sat in the beautiful garden sipping our drinks while basking in the gorgeous sun, my Oma and Opa and aunt planning the future wedding and I attempting to teach my cousins how to play a board game, which did not end so successfully. Our goodbyes ended with promises to see each other again soon, and plans of what to do when they come to Canada for their honeymoon in nine months.
On Monday my Oma, Opa, my little cousin Florian and I drove to a nearby “wasserschloss” (water-castle) and admired the absolute beauty surrounding every part of it. The ivy that ran down the weather worn stone walls was the stuff of fairytales, the swans drifting around the moat mere hints at the grandeur the castle must have projected in the prime of it’s beauty. It was also slightly mind boggling to see the minivan parked in the castle’s courtyard that confirmed that a family did actually live here, that their house was literally a castle. Not so average life goals. It was absolutely astounding to think that this masterpiece was considered a “small” castle in regards to the others in the region, whereas to me it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Maybe it was the ivy running down the cracked stone walls; perhaps the grand oak doors that promised even more inside should we dare to open them, but to me this relatively small castle was insanely beautiful, more so than the magnificence the huge Burg Eltz projected to the world from it’s place on the cliffside. I could imagine going for runs and bike rides on the grounds, the beautiful sculptures an art gallery of their own. I could imagine bakers coming here early Sunday mornings to drop off baguettes and brodchen fresh out of the oven, the aroma lifting off of them a more effective wake up call than any alarm clock could ever be.
As previously stated I had the opportunity to explore Bonn on my own in the following days after my adventures at Schloss Crottorf. I conquered many fears while there, including but not limited to complete interactions solely in German, navigating the subway system alone and having the courage to take a chance and talk to someone new, which eventually led to a new friend and a great opportunity.
On this day in particular, as I listened to the rain making music with the leaves I realized I had one goodbye to make that I had so far neglected. I
know this will sound utterly cliché but this goodbye was to the forests I had so often traversed during my time in Germany, the beauty and mystery that surrounded them and the refuge and clarity they had so often given me. And so with this revelation I hopped on my bike at eight thirty in the morning in the middle of a rainstorm with my camera tucked into my raincoat and a banana and an apple tucked
under my arm to go for one last bike ride.
The mist surrounding these forests in the early hours of the morning is the mist found in such books as Macbeth or Harry Potter; eery but beautiful, secretive but at the same time all-telling. Every time I go through these woods there are so many people I think of that would also whole heartedly appreciate the beauty they project. My dog for one, my Mother, Kiersten, Kristina, Annelise…I feel like I need to move to Germany just in order that these people can come visit me to truly understand what I’m talking about.
After my beautiful bike ride I arrived at my Oma and Opa’s doorstep once again sopping wet, literally squeezing water out of my clothing as I climbed the slippery steps back home. After wrestling with my suitcase for a while after this, and trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get everything home my Oma and I drove to the nearby town to do one last thing.
This summer I have had the amazing opportunity to buy a really nice camera for myself and my travels, it was the one thing I had really been working towards in the month of July. While in Germany my camera was an additional limb to me, I rarely left the house without it and snapped hundreds of pictures of things from my family, to castles, to giant slugs, to amazing architecture. My last act before I went home and begrudgingly said my goodbyes to everyone was to pick my favourite photos of the bunch and get them printed so that I could give them as presents to my family, something to remember our time together and just a general thank you for everything that they had done for me.
It was later that night at the “last supper” that I presented these photos to my family, photos of everyday life that is often forgotten to be cherished in the hustle and bustle of things. Photos of things as simple and as important as Clara smiling up at the camera from her baby seat, Jacob eating breakfast caked in Nutella, my Opa bending down to give Philline a kiss, and Daniel and Pios painting ornaments to put on Findus’ grave. For me it was these moments that were the most beautiful to me, not the Kolner Dom, or Schloss Crottorf, but rather the photos that made you stop for a moment and just cherish what was there in front of you.
Saying goodbye was very difficult and very emotional. I am so grateful to my family to have given me the opportunity to have joined their family for the past few weeks, to have experienced their day to day life in absolute wonder that they can experience this everyday, for putting up with me and my relentless attempts at getting photos. It’s hard to know what life will bring in any case, but now that I have seen a glimpse of what else is out there I feel more motivated to do what I can now to make these possibilities a reality in the future.
I was once talking to one of my favourite teachers and was telling her that I “just need to get through these next few months and then I can leave.” She told me that while it’s important to be excited for the future, it’s also important not to live in it too soon. What she meant is that what will I be experiencing now if all I can think about is the future? What will I take away from the now and right here if I’m so obviously just wishing for it to be over?
So while it is true that I am more excited for the future, specifically that of after high school, more than anything else, I’m hoping that I can also remember to partially enjoy parts of this year too, I shouldn’t just be aiming to get through it.
There are a few goals I have for myself in the next coming year, many of them inspired by my time in Germany. I want to get my driver’s licence, something I’m sure my mother will be very happy to hear, so that I can learn to drive in Germany the next time I go there. I want to get my German citizenship so that I can fully take advantage of the opportunities my German heritage has given me. I want to be more honest; with myself, with my teachers, with my friends. Everyone. About everything. And I also want to learn to start being a bit kinder to myself, because as someone is very fond of reminding me, often times it is myself that is the hardest on me.